Paul Craig Roberts
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
When did things begin going wrong in America?
“From the beginning,” answer some. English colonists, themselves under the thumb of a king, exterminated American Indians and stole their lands, as did late 18th and 19th century Americans. Over the course of three centuries the native inhabitants of America were dispossessed, just as Israelis have been driving Palestinians off their lands since 1948.
Demonization always plays a role. The Indians were savages and the Palestinians are terrorists. Any country that can control the explanation can get away with evil.
I agree that there is a lot of evil in every country and civilization. In the struggle between good and evil, religion has at times been on the side of evil. However, the notion of moral progress cannot so easily be thrown out.
Consider, for example, slavery. In the 1800s, slavery still existed in countries that proclaimed equal rights. Even free women did not have equal rights. Today no Western country would openly tolerate the ownership of humans or the transfer of a woman’s property upon her marriage to her husband.
It is true that Western governments have ownership rights in the labor of their citizens through the income tax. This remains as a mitigated form of serfdom. So far, however, no government has claimed the right of ownership over the person himself.
Sometimes I hear from readers that my efforts are pointless, that elites are always dominant and that the only solution is to find one’s way into the small, connected clique of elites either through marriage or service to their interests.
This might sound like cynical advice, but it is not devoid of some truth. Indeed, it is the way Washington and New York work, and increasingly the way the entire country operates.
Washington serves powerful private interests, not the public interest. University faculties in their research increasingly serve private interests and decreasingly serve truth. In the US the media is no longer a voice and protection for the people. It is becoming increasingly impossible in America to get a good job without being connected to the system that serves the elites.
The problem I have with this “give up” attitude is that over the course of my life, and more broadly over the course of the 20th century, many positive changes occurred through reforms. It is impossible to have reforms without good will, so even the elites who accepted reforms that limited their powers were part of the moral progress.
Labor unions became a countervailing power to corporate management and Wall Street.
Working conditions were reformed. Civil rights were extended. People excluded by the system were brought into it. Anyone who grew up in the 20th century can add his own examples.
Progress was slow–unduly so from a reformer’s standpoint–and mistakes were made. Nevertheless, whether done properly or improperly there was a commitment to the expansion of civil liberty.
This commitment ended suddenly on September 11, 2001. In eleven years the Bush/Obama Regime repealed 800 years of human achievements that established law as a shield of the people and, instead, converted law into a weapon in the hands of the government. Today Americans and citizens of other countries can, on the will of the US executive branch alone, be confined to torture dungeons for the duration of their lives with no due process or evidence presented to any court, or they can be shot down in the streets or exterminated by drone missiles.
The power that the US government asserts over its subjects and also over the citizens of other countries is unlimited. Lenin described unlimited power as power “resting directly on force, not limited by anything, not restricted by any laws, nor any absolute rules.”
Washington claims that it is the indispensable government representing the exceptional people and thereby has the right to impose its will and “justice” on the rest of the world and that resistance to Washington constitutes terrorism to be exterminated by any possible means.
Thus, the American neoconservatives speak of nuking Iran for insisting on its independence from American hegemony and exercising its rights to nuclear energy under the non-proliferation treaty to which Iran is a signatory.
In other words, Washington’s will prevails over international treaties that have the force of law, treaties which Washington itself imposed on the world. According to the neoconservatives and Washington, Iran is not protected by the legal contract that Iran made with Washington when Iran signed the non-proliferation treaty.
Iran finds itself as just another 17th or 18th century American Indian tribe to be deprived of its rights and to be exterminated by the forces of evil that dominate Washington, D.C.
The vast majority of “superpower” americans plugged into the Matrix, where they are happy with the disinformation pumped into their brains by Washington and its presstitute media, would demur rather than face my facts.
This raises the question: how does one become unplugged and unplug others from the Matrix? Readers have asked, and I do not have a complete answer.
It seems to happen in a number of ways. Being fired and forced to train your H-1B foreign replacement who works for lower pay, being convicted of a crime that you did not commit, having your children stolen from you by Child Protective Services because bruises from sports activities were alleged to be signs of child abuse, your home stolen from you because a mortgage based on fraud was given the force of law, laid off by “free market capitalism” as your age advanced and the premium of your employer-provided medical insurance increased, being harassed by Homeland Security on your re-entry to the US because you are a non-embedded journalist who reports truthfully on US behavior abroad. There are many instances of Americans being jolted into reality by the “freedom and democracy” scales falling away from their eyes.
It is possible that becoming unplugged from the Matrix is a gradual lifelong experience for the few who pay attention. The longer they live, the more they notice that reality contradicts the government’s and media’s explanations. The few who can remember important stuff after watching reality shows and their favorite sports teams and fantasy movies gradually realize that there is no “new economy” to take the place of the manufacturing economy that was given away to foreign countries. Once unemployed from their “dirty fingernail jobs,” they learn that there is no “new economy” to employ them.
Still seething from the loss of the Vietnam War and anger at war protesters, some flag-waving patriots are slowly realizing the consequences of criminalizing dissent and the exercise of First Amendment rights. “You are with us or against us” is taking on threatening instead of reassuring connotations, implying that anyone who opens his or her mouth in any dissent is thereby transformed into an “enemy of the state.”
More Americans, but far from enough, are coming to the realization that the extermination of the Branch Davidians at Waco in 1993 was a test run to confirm that the public and Congress would accept the murder of civilians who had been demonized with false charges of child abuse and gun-running.
The next test was the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. Whose explanation would prevail: the government’s or that of experts? Air Force General Partin, a top expert on explosives, proved conclusively in a heavily documented report given to every member of Congress that the Murruh Federal Office Building blew up from the inside out, not from the outside in from the fertilizer car bomb. But General Partin’s facts lost out to the government’s propaganda and to Congress’ avoidance of cognitive dissonance.
Once the “national security” government learned that its pronouncements and those of the presstitute media carried more weight than the facts presented by experts, conspiracies such as Operation Northwoods could be put into play. A 9/11 became possible.
The Pentagon, CIA, and military/security complex were desperate for a new enemy to replace the “Soviet threat,” which had ceased to exist. The military/security complex and its servants in Congress were determined to replace the profits made from the cold war and to preserve and increase the powers accumulated in the Pentagon and CIA. The only possible replacement for the Soviet threat was “Muslim terrorists.” Thus, the creation of the “al Qaeda threat” and the conflation of this new threat with secular Arab governments, such as Iraq’s and Syria’s, which were the real targets of Islamists.
Despite the evidence provided by experts that secular Arab governments, such as Saddam Hussein’s, were allies against Islamic extremism, the US government used propaganda to link the secular Iraq government with Iraq’s enemies among Islamic revolutionaries.
Once Washington confirmed that the American public was both too ignorant and too inattentive to pay any attention to events that would alter their lives and jeopardize their existence, every thing else followed: the PATRIOT Act, the suspension of the Constitution and destruction of civil liberty, Homeland Security which has quickly extended its gestapo reach from airports to train stations, bus terminals and highway road blocks, the criminalization of dissent, the equating of critics of the government with supporters of terrorism, the home invasions of antiwar protesters and their arraignment before a grand jury, the prosecution of whistleblowers who reveal government crimes, the equating of journalism organizations such as WikiLeaks with spies. The list goes on.
The collapse of truth in the US and in its puppet states is a major challenge to my view that truth and good will are powers that can prevail over evil. It is possible that my perception that moral progress has occurred in various periods of Western civilization reflects a progressive unplugging from the Matrix. What I remember as reforms might be events experienced through the rose colored glasses of the Matrix.
But I think not. Reason is an important part of human existence. Some are capable of it. Imagination and creativity can escape chains. Good can withstand evil. The extraordinary film, The Matrix, affirmed that people could be unplugged. I believe that even americans can be unplugged. If I give up this belief, I will cease writing.
This article first appeared at Paul Craig Roberts’ new website Institute For Political Economy. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His Internet columns have attracted a worldwide following.